The word empath comes from empathy, which is the ability to understand the experiences and feelings of others outside of your own perspective. When someone is considered to be an empath it means that they sense and feel the emotions of others as if they were their own. In other words, someone else’s pain or happiness becomes the empath’s pain or happiness.

Narcissists like empaths because an empath’s tendency to mirror others gives narcissists the narcissistic supply that they need to feel emotionally stable. Additionally, narcissists like empaths because an empath’s willingness to always see the good in others stops them from leaving the narcissist because they naturally justify the narcissist’s abusive behavior.

Empaths are wonderful people, but unfortunately, they get taken advantage of by abusive/toxic people. Therefore, empaths have to be careful with who they surround themselves with. Nonetheless, this article has a lot of helpful information that you can use to better understand the reason that narcissists like empaths. 

Narcissists Like Empaths Because Empaths Mirror Their Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions

When an empath mirrors the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of a narcissist, they do two really important things for the narcissist: 

  1. They give the narcissist the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they never received as a child.
  2. They validate, admire, and reassure the grandiose self-perception and public persona that the narcissist has created for himself/herself.

Unfortunately, a narcissist will never truly appreciate or acknowledge the value that an empath brings to their life. They feel entitled to benefiting from the good-hearted nature of an empath and will continue to take advantage of them for as long as they can.

A narcissist taking advantage of an empath

If you are going to fully understand the significance of the value that an empath adds to a narcissist’s life, and subsequently, the reason that narcissists are drawn to empaths, you first must understand a narcissist’s origin story.

Mirroring Gives Narcissists the Validation, Admiration, and Reassurance That They Never Received as a Child

Generally speaking, narcissism originates from an abusive or unhealthy childhood upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. 

Sometimes the words “abusive” and “unhealthy” rub people the wrong way and they think or say, “Well someone that I know is a narcissist/narcissistic and their childhood wasn’t abusive or unhealthy.” It is for this reason that it is important to understand that the words “abusive” and “unhealthy” have a very broad spectrum of possibilities.

Meaning the experiences that a narcissist had during their childhood upbringing could range anywhere from primary caregivers who are physically abusive (e.g. slapping, punching, spanking, etc.) to those whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries).

Primary caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent are incapable of mirroring (i.e. a set of behaviors that are intended to convey to the child that they are heard and that the parents understand their emotional state) their child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. 

A mother who is very distant with her child.

This means that the child never gets the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. 

This is a huge issue and is the root of all of the behavioral and cognitive problems that narcissists have. But when you cross paths with an empath, the empath’s desire to connect with the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others gives the narcissist the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers never gave them.

Considering how badly narcissists need someone with a lot of empathy to mirror their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, it makes you wonder why they don’t use the validation, admiration, and reassurance that empaths bring to their life to develop a realistic self-perception and healthy behavioral and cognitive patterns. 

Someone teaching others how to be a good, well-rounded person.

Well, the reason that this doesn’t happen is because the neglect that narcissists experienced during their childhood forced them to develop a grandiose self-perception and public persona. 

This means that the validation, admiration, and reassurance that empaths give a narcissist fuel their grandiose self-perception and public persona instead of helping them develop a realistic self-perception and healthy behavioral/cognitive patterns. 

Mirroring Supports a Narcissist’s Grandiose Self-Perception and Public Persona

The emotional neglect that narcissists experienced throughout their childhood caused them to develop many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions about themselves. Deep down, narcissists feel inadequate, worthless, weak, unwanted, and unlovable. These thoughts, feelings, and emotions eat away at their emotional stability every single day.

Generally speaking, someone who is emotionally competent will be able to acknowledge their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and take steps towards managing them (i.e. therapy). But because of the unhealthy cognitive development that narcissists have, they can’t do this so they are stuck with their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A narcissist who can't escape their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

To preserve their emotional stability, the narcissist learned to mirror society to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers couldn’t give them. 

In this context, the term “mirroring” refers to a narcissist ability to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about someone, or a group of people (i.e. society), and use that information to create a grandiose self-perception and public persona that they believe will be validated, admired, and reassured by others.

The problem with this is that narcissists are too emotionally incompetent to look past society’s superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior. So they end up constructing their self-perception and public persona out of the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance that society has to offer. 

A narcissist who is very superficial

This is where the term “narcissistic supply” comes from. If you didn’t know already, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists extract from their surrounding environment. 

Anyway, right now you might be thinking, “So what, they are a little superficial and materialistic, who isn’t these days”.

Well, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), this approach that narcissist have to developing a positive self-perception and public persona, along with many other things, causes them to develop the following:

nine traits of narcissistic personality disorder

With the help of the narcissistic supply that they get from their surrounding environment, these core characteristics/personality traits that narcissists have help them create a grandiose self-perception and public persona that they use to suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

Here’s the catch though…

The grandiose self-perception and public persona that narcissists have created for themselves makes them so emotionally unstable that they have to have a constant flow of narcissistic supply to protect their emotional stability from their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

It is for this reason that they are naturally drawn to empaths. Empaths are capable of providing them with a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance. 

An empath telling someone something nice

They are the type of people who are going to applaud the narcissist’s “special” accomplishments, they are going to sympathize with the narcissist when they victimize themselves, and they are going to justify, rationalize, and normalize the narcissist’s abusive behavior no matter what. 

Empaths help narcissists suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions by validating, admiring, and reassuring the narcissist’s grandiose self-perception and public persona. As long as the narcissist and the people in their surrounding environment believe in their grandiose self-perception and public persona, the narcissist will feel emotionally stable.

Suggested Reading:

In our article Who Do Narcissists Surround Themselves With? there’s a lot of helpful information that you can use to learn more about the types of people that narcissist keep around to support their grandiose self-perception and public persona.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissists like empaths is because an empath’s tendency to mirror the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others gives the narcissist the narcissistic supply that they need to maintain a grandiose self-perception/public persona and feel emotionally stable.

In addition to this, an empath’s willingness to always seek out the good in others stops them from leaving the narcissist because they naturally justify the narcissist’s abusive behavior. This turns them into an unlimited source of narcissistic supply that the narcissist can use to protect their emotional stability. 

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)

Baskin-Sommers, Arielle, Elizabeth Krusemark, and Elsa Ronningstam. “Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder: from clinical and empirical perspectives.” Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment 5.3 (2014): 323.